JOSEPH FORNEY JOHNSTON, Alabama’s 30th governor, was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina, on March 23, 1843, to Dr. William and Nancy Johnston. He was educated in public schools, and moved in 1860 to Talladega, Alabama, where he attended high school. In 1861, Johnston enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private, served as captain of the 12th North Carolina Infantry, and was wounded in four battles. After the war, Johnston studied law with W.H. Forney, in Jacksonville, Alabama, was admitted to the bar in 1866, and opened a private law practice in Selma, Alabama. In 1884 he moved to Birmingham, and became president of the Alabama State Bank, a position he held for 10 years. He also was president of the Sloss Iron and Steel Company in 1887, and chaired the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee. Johnston was elected Governor of Alabama on August 3, 1896, and was sworn into office on December 1, 1896. He was reelected to a second term on August 1, 1898. During his terms as governor, the Department of Insurance was established, the office of State Mine Inspector was created, and a tax commission was formed to equalize tax assessments. A law passed banning children under 14 years of age and women from working on dangerous jobs, and the export of iron to foreign countries was launched. In 1898 the Alabama Industrial School was established to reform and care for white orphaned and wayward children. Johnston left office on December 1, 1900, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1907, serving until his death. He died from pneumonia in Washington D.C., on August 8, 1913, and is buried at the Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Alabama.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.